A senior policeman has spoken out about a teenage girl with mental health issues being held in police custody, claiming there are "no beds available in the UK".
Paul Netherton, Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, posted tweets about the "unacceptable" scenario.
We have a 16yr old girl suffering from mental health issues held in police custody. There are no beds available in the uk! #unacceptable— ACC Paul Netherton (@ACC_Operations) November 29, 2014
The 16yr old was detained on Thursday night, sectioned Friday lunchtime and still no place of safety available. This can't be right! 1/2— ACC Paul Netherton (@ACC_Operations) November 29, 2014
Custody on a Fri & Sat night is no place for a child suffering mental health issues. Nurses being sourced to look after her in custody !?!— ACC Paul Netherton (@ACC_Operations) November 29, 2014
The teenage girl will be moved this evening, NHS England has said.
A spokesman for NHS England said a "local place" for the girl has been found. "She will be moved this evening," he said.
He added that she would be moved to a "place appropriate for her care".
Due to "patient confidentiality", the spokesman said he would be unable to provide much more information.
Luciana Berger, Labour's shadow health minister, said: "This sad situation is becoming worryingly common. People shouldn't face the indignity of being kept in police cells when they are at their most vulnerable.
"The Government promised parity for mental health services, yet we're going backwards. In recent years, they have suffered more than other NHS services and are falling deeper and deeper into crisis. The NHS has lost 1,500 specialist beds and thousands of mental health nurses.
"This is an appalling reflection of the crisis in mental health services and the Government must get to grips with it."
Earlier, Mr Netherton told Sky News he was "very concerned", adding that the force had been working with the NHS.
He said police would not put a criminal in custody for this long and said they certainly do not want to put someone suffering from mental health issues in a custody block for this length of time.
Mr Netherton said the girl was detained on Thursday night while she was at Torbay Hospital because she caused a breach of the peace.
When she got to custody she was detained under mental health powers, and the following day she was assessed by doctors who found she needed to be detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act.
Mr Netherton said the force has been told there are "no beds available anywhere in the United Kingdom".
He said: "We do have a problem in that we ... this last year, in Devon and Cornwall alone, had 750 people with mental health issues being detained in police stations.
"Now obviously we try and then move them on to appropriate accommodation. What concerns us in this case, and it's certainly a problem across the country, talking to my colleagues, is the fact that it involves children.
"And I do not think there's sufficient provision for children who suffer mental health issues and need to be detained in an emergency situation like this."
Mr Netherton said the mother of the teenager brought in a "big box of chocolates" for the police officers who were looking after her daughter because she felt so grateful to them.
He said a police officer is on "full-time watch" of the teenager, and said they have brought in food from McDonald's for her.
Mr Netherton said there are places for adults to be detained who are suffering from mental health issues.
"We just question why there is no provision for children, and actually we think that children should be the priority and we should therefore have places where we can take children who are in crisis," he said.
Asked if he thought his position could be at risk for speaking out on Twitter about the scenario, he said: "I don't think my position is at risk. I think we're just stating the facts.
"I think that is my job. I'm a senior police officer. I have a child who is in my care ... I have a duty of care over all the prisoners who come into the custody blocks within Devon and Cornwall, and therefore I think I need to flag it up and do something about it when we are frustrated."Suggest a correction